Reigning Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel set the ball rolling on the second pre-season test in Barcelona.
Vettel posted the fastest time on the first day of what will be eight days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya – split into two blocks of four – before the curtain rises on the new season in Australia from March 16-18.
Completing 79 laps, the 24-year-old German was quickest in one minute 23.265secs, finishing 0.175secs up on Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and 0.325secs better than Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren, whilst Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was down in fifth with a time of 1:24.100.
Vettel said: ‘It’s difficult to judge where we are compared with the others right now.
‘It’s all based on feeling, and the feeling I have inside the car at the moment is fine.
‘All in all, it was a good day.’
It proved to be a day of problems, however, for a number of other teams, spearheaded by the new Mercedes. After unveiling the W03 ahead of the test run, Michael Schumacher enjoyed a trouble-free morning run before encountering a hydraulic issue in the afternoon.
But after completing 51 laps, with his best a 1:23.150 for sixth on the timesheet, Schumacher said: ‘My initial feelings with our new car are certainly good.
‘I’m happy with the different evaluation we have done over the last week, but obviously with the rule changes, we won’t know more until later.
‘It’s certainly an improvement and we have worked hard on the areas we had defined last year.
‘Even though we had the hydraulic problem today, I’m pleased with all the mileage we have achieved so far with the new car.’
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, quickest of the 2012 cars in the first test in Jerez earlier this month, managed just seven laps. An unspecified fault with the latest chassis brought his day to a very premature end.
Following further investigation of the chassis, and the one used in the initial test in Jerez, the team made the decision to take no further part in this week’s running in Barcelona.
Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen completed only 36 laps, with his best a 1:26.035 for the ninth quickest time, due to a rear track rod failure.
Kovalainen said: ‘That obviously wasn’t how we wanted day one here to go. But that’s what testing is for – pushing everything to the limit to make sure we get rid of the problems before we get to the first race.’
Daniel Ricciardo at least made it through most of the day until a technical fault with his Toro Rosso curtailed his day with an hour to run. The Australian ultimately finished fourth fastest on the timesheet, with the best of his 76 laps being a 1:23.618.
It was the same for Sauber’s Sergio Perez who suffered a double dose of technical-related problems, one in the morning and another unrelated issue in the afternoon.
They restricted the Mexican to 66 laps and a best of 1:24.219 for seventh best on the day. Behind Perez, Williams’ Bruno Senna managed a respectable 97 laps, but at this early stage the FW34 appears to be lacking pace as the Brazilian finished 1.5secs behind the Sauber.
With Kovalainen ninth and Grosjean 10th, that left Charles Pic in his debut test as a fully-fledged F1 driver to bring up the rear for Marussia. Marussia, however, are currently using last year’s car before rolling out the new challenger for the final test in Barcelona starting on March 1.
With Marussia evaluating the new Pirelli tyres and practising pit stops, Pic ultimately finished almost five seconds behind Vettel, although he managed a day high of 121 laps.
by Terrence Johns